Horses at Port Arthur: their origins and impacts on history

28 May

Across the world, horses had an incredible and transformative effect on human societies – impacting everything from subsistence to social structure, movement, communication, trade, and warfare. Although domesticated in interior Eurasia more than 4000 years ago, many of the most dramatic impacts of domestic horses have occurred in the modern era, as horses and other European domesticates entered the “New World” – including Australia, the Americas, and other corners of the globe.  Recent innovations in archaeological science now enable us to reconstruct elements of this story previously lost or missing from historical records using archaeozoology and biomolecular techniques, such as stable isotopes and ancient DNA. Using this approach, recent research seeks to model the dispersal of horses into new environments and understand the ways they were used by early colonists and aboriginal peoples in Australia and the Antipodes.

William Taylor, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History is visiting Port Arthur later this month to look at horse bone, teeth and potentially hair, from the PAHSMA archaeology collection. In partnership with the University of Queensland, William has recently begun a project that will use cutting edge technology from archaeology, archaeozoology, and biomolecular science, to identify and analyse horse remains from colonial Australia.

William will be giving a free talk on the early stages of this project on Tuesday 28 May at 1:00 p.m. at Port Arthur in the conference room at the rear of the Junior Medical Officer’s House. For more information phone 6251 2324.